Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia family court program goes online

A mandatory program for those about to appear in family court on divorce or custody and once available in person at a courthouse, is now also online.

Program aims to walk those about to appear on divorce and custody matters through 'complex system'

A program that helps people wade through the family court process is now online. (Robert Short/CBC)

A program for those about to appear in family court on divorce or custody matters is now available online.

The mandatory intake program had previously only been offered at courthouses, according Pamela Marche, the director of court services for the Nova Scotia Department of Justice. 

"(It) allows people who are going through the process to get some mandatory information about what they can expect as they move through the court process and what court forms they need to file and how they can get legal advice," she said.

Marche says most Canadians who come into contact with the legal system do so through family court. It's a difficult and emotional time.

"People come into our courtrooms or courthouses not having a whole lot of information about what they can expect, entering into a pretty complex system and being pretty upset on top of all that," she said.

Court can be intimidating, 'nerve-racking'

Marche says as many as 80 per cent of people appearing in family court in Nova Scotia represent themselves.

"So we tell them things like what to expect when they go into a courtroom, what forms they need to file in order to seek the type of relief that they're looking for, what the different options are to revolving their dispute." 

Marche says until now, people about to engage with the family court had to register to take the course in person at a courthouse. That was a barrier to some.

"There are a lot of people who live in rural areas in Nova Scotia and it can be challenging to come all the way into courthouse to get that information," she said.

"Some people find attending in a courthouse pretty intimidating; it's a foreign place for some people and it can be kind of nerve-racking. Plus people have to take time off work or arrange for child care, which can be a challenge."

Marche said another benefit is that the material is always there online for people who want to refresh their memories or access the materials in installments.

"Sometimes, it's kind of like going to the doctor," said Marche. "You're there and you're hearing the information, but it's a pretty stressful situation so you're not really retaining all the information."

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